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Purple Patch


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I Finally Found A Film I Hate (Part 5-Finale) · 9:39pm Dec 18th, 2020

Okay, I think it’s finally time to put this thing to bed (Preferably one in the Oliver Twist workhouse!).
I’ve recently done some digging and found that Sophia Myles, Kate Nickleby’s character, played Lady Penelope in the Thunderbirds movie starring Ben Kingsley as The Hood and that film’s poor reception put a scar on her career ever since which I think is a bit of a shame since many people seem to think that she was one of the only good actors in the film next to the aforementioned Kingsley and Ron Cook as Parker (Note that it’s the British Actors that make a film worth seeing. That’s why the Disney remakes keep on breaking even.)

But enough cultural posturing, on to the torture.
So after the frankly sluggish attempts at character development among the Nickleby family that, if anything just show how littlecharacter they have, they note that Smike isn’t doing well and London isn’t the place for them anymore, they decide to head back to the country to set up their new digs, as it were and here I’m a bit confused.
When did they get this much money? Nicholas hasn’t been working for the Cheerybles that long!
I mean, in the book there was a time-skip, as there often is in Dickens’ works but in the 2002 movie, they moved back to their old house in the middle of nowhere since no-one bought it back when they tried to sell it off.
This version seems to imply that either Nicholas is burning through his cash pretty unsafely or the Cheerybles are which doesn’t ring true to Dickens’s spirit. Dickensian protagonists are generous but they’re also careful with money, you had to be in those days. It meets the perfect gap between idealistic and realistic in a world where money makes the world go around.
Nicholas’s mother then assures Nicholas that he should thank the Cheerybles for their generosity so it seems that the Cheerybles bought it. Okay, point taken but now I’m left wondering if they do this to all their employees. If not, I’m still convinced that they’re trying to get into Nicholas’s pants with this sort of thing.
Also, I just can’t get over the fact that Nicholas’s family are still all dressed in black! Do they only go out in funeral garb? Was Nicholas so set on buying this house that he never bought any new clothes? I wouldn’t so much but it clashes so horribly with the very verdant greenery in the background of the country house. It’s ugly, there’s no other word for it. The costume designer may have gotten an award but the cinematographer sure didn’t!

On that note, I decided to look up who directed this.
Stephen Whittaker who died two years after making this in 2003, sorry to say. Julian Fellowes (The director behind Downton Abbey) described as ‘One of the most exiting director in the industry’ and I can only assume the industry looked very different then because ‘exiting’ isn’t something I’ve seen from this movie. His IMDb profile lists 17 other directing credits, one of them an episode of Inspector Morse starring Keith Allen as a literal devil-worshipping serial rapist/murderer...
Alright then.
But he was more famous for acting, it seems, as one of his earliest roles, one that gets the most attention on his Wikipedia page, was in old an episode of Doctor Who as a soldier who gets killed by an Abominable Snowman...And looking at some of the episode...

Yeah...I think this explains a lot about what I’m watching right now.
Let’s just be clear. I’m sorry this guy is dead and I’m sure he did well in many things...But I’m afraid nothing I have seen here convinces me that Nicholas Nickleby was one of them and it feels as though he’s trying to do So Bad It’s Good but doesn’t really make it either good enough to be interesting or bad enough to be amusing. There isn’t even much to catch the eye like so many other films people say have that problem. It’s just a mess.
In a way this has kind of reassured me that, even in the later 90s to early 2000s, there were still films that were just an hour and a quarter of nothing. I’ve seen a lot of people raging about those kinds of films being made nowadays and I’m glad it’s not just a new thing.
Okay, so back to the plot...

Ralph Nickleby is meeting with another character, a close associate of his, and meets the housekeeper, Peg Sliderskew who’s played by the late Liz Smith who I knew as Mrs Cropley in the Vicar of Dibley and had quite a prestigious acting career.
Unfortunately here, her character is reduced to ‘Ha-ha, look at how mad and ugly old women are’. (British women do not age. Fact of life. Look at Helen Mirren.)
So here we are introduced also to the owner of the house, the disgusting miser Arthur Gride, played by Frank Mills. Gride is exceptionally tight-fisted with money and is already sitting on a pile of wealth that he’ll share with no-one and keeps Peg around solely because she’ll work for very little. Lecherous, sycophantic and as greedy as they come, he’s a man with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
I should say here that the presently ninety-three-year-old Frank Mills (I don’t know if he’s still alive.) is an actor I saw in one of the first episodes of New Tricks where he played an ailing man whose autistic son hanged himself when he fell under false suspicion of murder and who spent his scenes tearfully begging the detectives to clear his son’s name before he dies of lung cancer. On paper, it sounds very over-the-top but it was presented as a very down-to-earth real fear of any father who loses a child in that way and, if justice can be done, might not live to see it and the scene really tugged at the heartstrings. He acted it very well and made the whole scene feel very convincing.
So, again, I’m sad to see him basically be a long slide of ‘Aren’t old people disgusting’. The character of Arthur Gride has plenty of qualities that make him unpleasant but this film really overplays his senility and perving. Frank Mills, to his credit, is doing his best with very preserve dialogue and mannerisms to go about it as he explains his goal to marry Madeline Bray, the object of Nicholas’s fancy, but it’s just a bit much.
Now, in the 2002 movie, it was Ralph who was spying on Nicholas and Madeline’s heart-to-heart moment and gave old Sir Mulberry Hawk the idea to marry her, unfortunately cutting out the otherwise very memorable Gride (If I was going to add Gride to the 2002 movie, I’d probably cast either Tim Curry or Rik Mayall. That gives you an idea of how much fun you can have with this character.) But I understand why the 2002 movie cut him out. They were strained for time and the film already had copious villains so reusing one was acceptable, especially one as foul as Mulberry Hawk who had already tried to lay his talons into a poor girl close to Nicholas.
But anyway, Gride informs him that Walter Bray owes Ralph Nickleby a staggering amount of money in unpaid debts and that his daughter Madeline has been seen in the company of Ralph’s nephew Nicholas. So Ralph sees an opportunity to slight his nephew and further his investments in one.
I admit, this part of the scene isn’t too bad here. Ralph is stern and ruthless and Arthur Gride is sly and depraved which keeps very much to Dickens’s characterisation. Ralph can also see when Gride is not telling him the whole truth when Gride is trying to weasel his way out of paying off all the debts Walter owes them both and is also hiding some documents he’s stolen from the infirm Walter Bray to ensure he’s the legitimate owner of Walter’s old properties and businesses if he marries Madeline and he wants Ralph to press the point since he’s Walter’s foremost creditor. It’s all ‘villainous capitalist’ fluff but it’s done pretty well all things considered, better than most character development so far.
Ralph insists on having the whole debt paid plus interest and five-hundred pounds as a bonus...for a friend.
The only bit that kind of ruins it is the cash-register sound effect that plays when they shake hands upon the plan....I have no idea why. That kind of thing has never happened in this film before...Maybe it was in the editing on Youtube but I can’t be sure and at this stage, I don’t want to know what was in the director’s head.
But...yeah...just under two-and-a-half hours in and I finally find a scene I like.
Good job!

Oh yeah, that’s another thing I feel I should point out. This isn’t so much a movie as a ‘miniseries’. I think Britain does them a lot more than the USA because they’re better for independent productions. Or at least they were. They’re not so common now what with video streaming and everything. Or maybe they are, I haven’t had Netflix long enough to know.
But let that sink in. I have to get through just over three hours of this and I can count the number of times I genuinely felt something on one hand!
Say what you will about most other films everyone yells about but at least they rarely ever go beyond two hours!
This thing had lots of time and great casting but they can’t build an atmosphere for crap!
As is proven when Ralph sets about trying to convince Walter Bray to marry his daughter to Arthur Gride. The dialogue either goes too quick for it to set in or too slow for it to keep us interested and Charles Dance looks like he just wants to get out of there, poor devil. Much more attention just goes into how ugly and goofy Arthur Gride’s meant to be than how disturbing the idea of a man being tempted into setting aside his daughter’s happiness in exchange for his financial security is, considering it could often happen in that time. Also, Walter Bray says that he wants Madeline to make up her own mind which...kind of defeats the point of the scene.
Part of the tragedy in Madeline Bray’s life is that her father really doesn’t think twice about using her. In the book, he’s an inherently selfish individual who’s deluding himself into believing he’s acting in Madeline’s best interests. There are hints that he does care somewhat but he never acts upon it and he’s always humbled by Ralph Nickleby who can and will press the point. David Bradley played him as handing over his daughter to the attempted-rapist that is Sir Mulberry Hawk with a smile and a handshake and even mocks Nicholas about it afterwards. Maybe some exaggeration in his villainy but either way, Walter Bray is not meant to be a sympathetic person the same way his daughter is. With his youth-spent in feckless spending and hedonism, he ruined his own life then ruined his wife’s and now he’s about to ruin his daughter’s without batting an eye. And this is the third time his character has completely shifted from good to bad.
And he does it a fourth time as he actually snaps at Ralph and Gride demanding respect from them since he is still a gentleman whatever his state. This, again, is a complete contradiction of how Walter Bray is meant to be. He has no respect of his own and his demands for it never meet anyone’s ears. Ralph Nickleby should be spitting in his face and reminding him just how long he’s going to spending in the chokey if he doesn’t play along. Instead he has to flatter him. And yes, in the books, Ralph did flatter and reassure him but it was done just to speed the process along and also show what a shallow, materialistic world he and his associates live in, not because he’s afraid.
I feel like the scriptwriter must have read snippets of Charles Dickens but never thought about how they were meant to be said or what description came with them. And that never works.
Oh and Gride actually licks Madeline’s hand when he offers to shake it...Because this scene just was too subtle up to now!
And this scene has the balls to imagine it can end on a note of fear and sadness and everything and right afterwards...

Arthur Gride is in his pyjamas testing how his mattress will feel and making plenty of gestures.
I think Gride is the filmmaker’s new favourite character and that is not a good thing.
This film seems to want as much gross sexual-comedy as possible and in a Dickens adaptation, that’s like trying to shove twerking into Beatrix Potter...



So yeah, I see several minutes of what this film thinks is comedy. Poor Smith and Mills are trying to make the jokes land but I don’t think anyone ever told them when to stop or worse, they just told them to go further and further so every joke feels overdone to the point of exhaustion. I know these two can be funny while still being sensible, Liz Smith especially. This is just undignified.
Do they think this makes the characters endearing? It doesn’t! I don’t want to see them! They’re making me uncomfortable!
The villains in Dickens are horrid but they’re still interesting to watch. I know Ralph and Squeers are two of the characters I remember most from the 2002 version. So why does this version either not give them the necessary power to be intimidating and interesting or draw out their scenes with copious amounts of cringe so that they fast wear out their welcome before they even do anything?!
I know I shouldn’t lay the blame for a film’s shortcomings solely at the director. I’m sure Frank Mills could have afforded to tone it down a bit (Although it is the first bit of life I’ve seen from the characters in this film so hey-ho.) but I think it’s up to the director to know when enough is enough, especially a director that takes it upon himself to make independent or niche cinema. I’m not going to be lenient just because this film didn’t have a big production company like Disney or Fox behind it, if anything I’m going to demand higher standard for it to stand up on its own. That’s how independent cinema supports itself; quality and effort. Good control is essential when you’re not going to bank so much on marketing and advertising and it’s even more important with such a good cast.

So Noggs comes to pay them a visit to let them know that Walter Bray’s accepted the offer and Peg Sliderskew feels uncertain about the marriage because she fears that, when Gride comes into both his bride and the money that’ll come with her, she’ll be gotten rid of since she’s clearly not the best housekeeper judging by how the house looks. And then...
There’s an imagination blur cut?
Are we going to see her imagining what’ll happen?
No, wait, we see Noggs racing through the Cheeryble’s workshop to tell Nicholas and...
I’m sorry, what?! Why was there an Arthur-style cutaway effect?! And more importantly, where was the sound effect?!
Okay, anyway, Nicholas is told of this and, good grief, the music goes so over the top it’s the first time I’ve actually laughed unintentionally here! He’s walking through the workshop asking who he needs to talk to to stop this and the orchestra’s going so all out, you’d think he was stretching out his arms while being held up by Leonardo diCaprio at the prow of the goddamn Titanic! Between this and the blur transition I’m seeing a huge lack of communication in the making of this film!

Okay, so Nicholas has stormed into Madeline and her father’s cell in Debtor’s Prison and is having it out with her choosing to do this...I can’t shake off the fact that James D’Arcy looks like he’s trying not to crack up so evidently, he just watched the previous scene. Walter Bray is mocking him, all but cackling and yet again, I’m confused as to whether this guy is meant to be a villain or just a pawn for the real villains.
Pick one and stick to it!
And again, Nicholas is just trying to make this scene screamy and argumentative, throwing a chair across the room, when it really doesn’t fit. There’s been nothing so far that’s this emotional so it just feels forced.
And then the scene does something that I really don’t agree with.
Nicholas declares that he won’t allow her to be forced into this fixed marriage and then, when she insists she has to do this and it’s her choice, he drags her out of the cell.
People...You cannot do that.
When your plot has a woman who is forced against her will to go through with something, you cannot have your hero free her against her will. I know that sounds like a contradiction in terms but he outright states ‘I won’t allow you to be forced into this’. So by that logic, Nicholas himself is forcing her not to be forced which defeats the entire point of having a woman stand up to adversity and the things that bind her to them.
Dealing with someone who is undergoing abuse requires you to teach them how to be strong and stand up for themselves. If this version of Nicholas hasn’t the patience for that from the woman he loves, he doesn’t deserve her.
In the book, Nicholas is pretty heated but he mostly just dresses down Walter Bray for his selfishness, causing the man to get so riled he breaks down in a fit and needs a nurse. While he’s being tended to, Nicholas begs Madeline not to do this to herself, offering any solution or aid but Madeline insists it be done for her father’s sake and that of her conscience, either too broken by the world that she just wants to see her father safe or too determined to make her own path in life however hard it comes. Both are things that Nicholas and the audience actually shows admiration for and which is all the more tragic in her case how her life has gotten this way and has no way out.
This whole dragging her out of it scenario destroys that image. It makes Nicholas come across as selfish and inconsiderate and Madeline come across as dull and self-destructive. Dragging someone out of a situation is the worst thing to do to someone who’s been abused because then they expect the same force and abuse in turn.
Outside though, Madeline does explain why she can’t leave but not in any great detail so I don’t know why Nicholas dragged her out in the first place as she relays what he should, with any sense, already know. In the books, they just discuss this privately and there’s never any question of dragging her away.
Really, that scene stands out as a testament to how little the direction here understands what is both necessary to the story and to the characters.
The scene had no point and the actions had no justification.
And, I’m sorry to say this, I haven’t seen her in anything else so I can’t judge too much, but Katherine Holmes’s acting is...rather ho-hum. For a character in her position, she seems very blank and monotone and when she changes expression or really shows emotion it doesn’t feel sincere. It’s not Bella Swan-level or anything but it still means I can’t really feel for her.
I miss Anne Hathaway’s Madeline Bray. A lot.
Make whatever The Witches 2020 jokes you like (I didn’t think the movie was that bad but then I never really liked the original that much, sorry to say) but she could pull off Madeline Bray’s predicament in five minutes better than anyone in this bloody thing can pull off in twenty-five!

And then...more Gride.
Seriously, I don’t want any more Gride! I’m tired of this! It wasn’t even funny to begin with!
Just having an old man far too happy to marry a younger woman isn’t a joke! In fact, with so many sexual harassment scandals in the last couple of years, it just makes the scene uncomfortable in a way that doesn’t benefit the film.
This is what a film looks like when a character’s overacting in an otherwise-boring film actually hinders it rather than improves it like other bad films. Tim Curry this guy is not. And I don’t want to think Frank Mills did this intentionally, I’m almost certain this guy was just told to be as pervy and gross and senile in every scene as much as possible and, pun not intended, it gets old fast.
Also, he’s not wearing bottle-green.
Arthur Gride’s “I’ll be married in the bottle-green” is one of his character’s famous lines. It’s in an illustration from the book and he even said it earlier in the series. Now he’s wearing some kind of navy-blue and maroon nightmare that looks like he got thrown out of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band...and no, that doesn’t make the scene any better. It’s really not as fun as it looks.
Afterward, we see Madeline in her wedding dress looking dead to the world which...isn’t really that different to how she’s looked before.
At least Walter Bray’s giving it something, if only slightly, wringing his hands looking concerned at events, wondering what he’s done and if it’s the right thing.

Anyway, when Arthur Gride is waiting for his bride to emerge, licking his fingers as he does it (Yes, we get it!), Walter Bray argues with Ralph Nickleby, also present, and says he’s finding it cruel how her daughter must marry such a man.
Again, wrong way to do it. Walter should be making his point worriedly and a bit feebly, in the book it’s even written as ‘he whispered emphatically’. Here, he’s snapping. Again, is he a hero or a villain?! Pick! One!
Also, something I’ve noticed about Gride.
His ludicrous perversity, even if it was warranted, is played wrong.
In the books, he’s also interested in Bray’s property which he’s stolen but could legitimately own regardless if married to Madeline. It shows his inherent ultra-mercurial personality since he not only gains a young bride but a fortune.
This version of Gride not only seems perverted but quite stupid so the fact that he stands to gain a lot of money is lost by just how overenthusiastic he is of marrying a girl of nineteen.
This is the kind of stuff that would get rejected in an Anime Dirty Old Man character. They’ve made him so senile, ugly and degenerate that he looks like some kind of mental case so we can’t take this character, or his plans, seriously, so he just becomes a nuisance in every scene he’s in, all of which overdo the perversity and senility that takes away the edge of his character. So the director’s love of using this character ironically made him more useless as a story device and annoying as audience-appeal.
Why does that remind me of someone...

So then we see Nicholas and Kate coming along and Agh!
Kate is wearing a cream-coloured dress and bonnet!
At last, a Nickleby isn’t wearing black! It’s a miracle!
Although I question what she’s doing here. She’s never been shown to have much part in this dilemma.
I would have loved to have seen Romola Garai come in with Nicholas to put a stop to Mulberry Hawk’s marriage to Madeline in the 2002 version.
It’d make sense seeing as, in the book, Madeline is shown to be incredibly warm towards Kate and it’s implied that how passionate she is towards Nicholas is down to how much he resembles Kate.
So...confirmed, Madeline Bray is bi and would like to get it on with her husband’s sister.
And having said that...Anne Hathaway and Romola Garai as a gay couple in Victorian London...
That is...golly...
What were we talking about again?
(One dipping of one’s head in a bucket of cold water later...)

Apologies. Anyway...
So Nicholas and Kate stride in in about as lacklustre a ‘Big Damn Heroes’ entrance I have ever seen.
Madeline enters to Gride’s enthusiasm and then...they just walk in.
Charles Dance is about the only part of the scene that’s good as he threatens them into leaving but literally no coherent talk can occur before the bombshell hits.
Walter Bray dies, there and then.
As Madeline breaks down crying, Nicholas, Kate, Ralph and Gride quite honestly just partake in a shoving match, bickering over who gets her.
Again, it feels like both parties are forcing her which is really bad for the character and bad for anyone in a similar predicament! Clearly no-one on the writing team took a class on how to help an abuse victim.
Anyway, Kate just tugs her out of the room, she’s still weeping over her father by the way, kind of nasty move there. Ralph just tells them to come back and they ignore him.
Again! Do Not Ignore Charles Dance!
Do I need to have someone play The Rains Of Castamere already?!
Oh and, when Ralph Nickleby yells ‘Come back here, I say’, Nicholas turns to him defiantly and says ‘Never.’
That doesn’t even work. You mean like ‘I’ll Never come back?’ because...he does come back later to confront him, spoiler-alert.
It sounds like that line was something the writers thought was cool but just about every famous film has the hero say ‘Never’ to the villain but that just made the whole scene feel stupid.
Charles Dance actually gives him a look as if to say “Wow? Did you really just say that and think it was cool?! What the blazes am I doing in this bloody series?! I could have been in Mikawber with David Jason. Now there’s some Dickens done decently.”

Anyway, after that sheer and utter cinematic incompetence, Ralph and Gride hurry to find the will for Bray’s property, hoping to stop Nicholas getting the property in place. They return to Gride’s home to find that old Peg Sliderskew has stolen the documents and run. Here, at least, while Frank Mills isn’t having to overplay his character’s perversity, he actually proves a fairly good actor until the director remembers ‘Oh yeah, old people are funny when they lose their minds. Dementia. Ain’t it a hoot?” So Gride just descends into a rant where he says ‘money, money, money’ over and over.
Dude, you’re not Mr Krabs.
What’s more, he’s drowning Charles Dance actually trying to pull off a pretty decent villainous monologue as he vows to track down Peg Sliderskew and get back the documents (The advantage for them at the moment is that Peg Sliderskew can’t read and so won’t know how valuable the documents are)
Then we’re at the Nickleby’s house and Mother Nickleby again, acting terribly. I’m convinced this woman’s an alien now, she seems to have no idea how people are meant to act in any situation.
So here’s where Frank Cheeryble introduces himself and starts wooing Kate to Smike’s sorrow.
Then, another scene change.
You have three hours damn it! You can’t make a single scene meaningful!
So Ralph Nickleby is on the London Streets and sees Noggs speaking with Brooker from before (The beggar who knows a dark secret of Ralph’s). He then meets Wackford Squeers at the inn again and tells him he has reason to suspect Noggs of treachery.
Uh...no crap, dude. You saw him talking to someone who knows your dark secret!
So Ralph tells Squeers to acquaint himself with Peg Sliderskew and acquire the will from her. Yet again, Charles Dance’s awesomeness is not made use of as Squeers dully insists on seventy-five pounds over fifty.
Director, seriously! You have Charles Frigging’ Dance as one of the most intimidating and fearsome men in Dickensian lore and you turn him into everyone’s bitch! Asinine, that’s what this monstrosity of a miniseries is, utterly asinine.
And yet another scene change to prove my point.
Madeline is back on her feet and the Cheerybles see her safely to their business to settle her late father’s debts themselves. And both lovers look their brains have been cooked.
At this point, Padme and Anakin’s romance is looking good in comparison!
That’s right. This series’s failed attempts at romance is making me long for ‘I Don’t Like Sand’!
So apparently Nicholas is afraid to confess his feelings for Madeline for fear the Cheerybles will think he’s taken advantage of their trust which...has never been established and his feelings for Madeline were pretty obvious from the get go (In-context-wise anyway. I’ve seen people looking more enamoured with a bowl of Weetabix.)
Honestly, the acting of the Nicklebys, I just cannot get around. The siblings are robotic to a worrying degree while the mother acts outright sinister at times. There is no-one to like in this thing!
But here, we learn that Smike is ailing, very ill with consumption and must be taken to a place of cleaner air.
So Nicholas takes him to Devonshire, his birthplace and we see him carrying Smike on his back.
Again, you’re not going to top the homoeroticism between Charley Hunnan and Jamie Bell! (And I don’t think I’ve ever said that)
There are moments where Nicholas just states the obvious now and again which feel so redundant and disparaging towards Charles Dickens’ masterful skill in writing dialogue.
But anyway, we notice someone spying on them who Smike recognises with terror. We see that it’s Brooker.
Remember this. It’ll be important later.

After this though, Smike is breathing his last.
And here, I do admit, there is a pretty good line from Nicholas Nickleby that quite suits Smike’s character and tragic life.
“Always remember...You made me happy...”
Smike confesses to loving Kate and passes on at last. I’m just disappointed they skipped over the essential dialogue that so develops Smike’s tragic predicament of hating himself for being jealous and generally never having respect for himself.
But anyway, Smike dies and, sadly, there really isn’t much to say. It’s sad but you don’t really feel much.
Scenes of Ralph Nickleby brooding and being unable to sleep, waking up suddenly.
It’ll be symbolic later so also remember this.
And then in the tavern we see Squeers and Sliderskew and...
Seriously? More gross sexual comedy?
You couldn’t give it fifteen sodding minutes?!
Nope, nope, just skipping the cringe this time. There is only so much I can wade through and I’ve no interest to watch a bloated lard-bucket putting the moves onto a wrinkled hag and be told to laugh.
Squeers takes the will but it caught by the police who Noggs has tipped off, Noggs himself knocking him out.
It would be impressive if there was ever enough developed with either of these characters to make me care.
Tom Courtenay’s Noggs punching out Jim Broadbent’s Squeers would be gold. Alas, not.
We see Brooker reach the Nickleby’s house and ask for Nicholas.
Then, whiplash, another scene change where Ralph tries to promise Squeers he can have him released but Squeers refuses seeing as working for him has only landed him in worse and worse trouble.
Again, it would be powerful if Ralph had ever been shown as the more powerful of the group. Here, it’s just beating a dead horse.

Ralph at this point now has nothing. With Bray and Verisopht dead, Hawk disappeared, Gride ruined and Squeers imprisoned, his allies are gone and the money that came from them lost entirely. He has bankrupted himself trying to get revenge on his nephew. All it needs is one more spark.
Then at last, the big payoff, the grand reveal. Ralph finds Nicholas, Noggs and Brooker at his study and learns the truth.
Smike was his son.
Mr Shymalan, if you please...

Thank you.
To explain, many years ago Ralph married a young woman but kept the marriage secret, knowing her parents wouldn’t approve and would change their will if they knew, even at that age only really seeing worth in money. They lived separately and his wife bore his son which he also kept secret, sending the child away from both of them. The mother grew tired of the deception and ran off with another man. Soon after, she came into her money so Ralph pursued her and left Brooker, his clerk at the time, to find his son with which to prove his connection and right to her fortune. Brooker kept him in the attic of Ralph’s house. Neglect made the boy sickly and solitude made him dull-witted and it was believed he’d died under the circumstances causing Ralph to cut his losses and return to London. Brooker in fact lied and sent the boy to Yorkshire where he ended up in the care of one Wackford Squeers. Brooker, not knowing what sort of man Squeers was, took charge of paying the fees but then fell out with Ralph about his pay and Ralph got him arrested and deported which meant nobody was paying for Smike’s care, leaving Squeers to basically make him a slave.
Brooker returned and tried to blackmail Ralph with this secret but never actually gave the secret away to Ralph himself. Ralph had never known his son was still alive and now he learns at last, he was the crippled boy travelling with his hated nephew who he himself had given back to Squeers and wished harm upon again and again. And now, learning his own son, who could have been only joy he had left as his fortune falls away now lies in the ground beside his own brother, buried by the nephew who he hated so much it blinded him, Ralph is truly broken.
Here, the scene is...almost decent. Charles Dance and Donald Sumpter are acting well and giving it their all but unfortunately the dialogue is weak, the pauses between each line come across as arbitrary (Someone’s trying to rip off Pinter) and yet again, Ralph’s grand collapse from power just feels worthless when so little of the series has built up his character as having any real power to begin with. He’s started out bitter and miserable and now ends bitter and miserable so the payoff pretty much entirely fails.
Ah well, at least two great actors got a scene unhampered by cringe. That’s something. Only took three hours!
Anyway, afterwards, Ralph, overcome by despair, guilt and the first real sense of loss he’s ever felt in all his years, returns to the cold, empty attic where he last saw his own son and, knowing he has nothing worth living for and the bailiffs want him for the crimes his allies have collectively committed, hangs himself.
It’s...alright, as these things go but it’s got nothing on 2002’s version, the dialogue I actually used in some of my Fimfics.
It’s just slow and sad and empty...like everything else in this series.

And now we’re finishing up the romantic leads of two people who couldn’t show emotion if you stuck a bargepole up their jacksies.
Kate marries Frank. Nicholas tells Madeline he loves her. Turns out the Cheerybles don’t think he’s taken advantage of their trust, if that was ever an issue. A group of people force smiles. Charles Dance got a part as Guy Spencer in Foyle’s War and never looked back! The End!

Thank frigging’ god that’s over.
I don’t think I need to say that, outside of Dakari-King-Mykan’s A Hearth’s Warming Story (Which I will not go into), this is one of the weakest and most poorly-directed portrayals of Dickens I’ve ever seen.
I haven’t seen enough adaptations to know if it’s the worst but if there is worse professionally-made media on the works of Charles Dickens, I will be astounded.
In a three-hour series with some of the best actors in Obscure British Drama, this film (Yeah, I’ll call it a film, purely because I can’t imagine anyone watching two-to-three episodes of this after the first!) manages to be unbearably awkward and yet at the same time appallingly boring! None of the characters are remotely interesting and are either tedious or wear out their welcome within moments; the protagonists that aren’t void of emotion are highly questionable in virtue with no sense of irony or intention; the villains are either irritating or, in the sad sad case of Charles Dance, made redundant; scenes change wildly with sometimes only seconds between them; the dialogue is weak as dishwater and the lines they actually take from Dickens are misused; the atmosphere is non-existent and the mood for the entire fracas is depressing whether or not they meant to be; none of the plot threads or character traits are ever given time to develop despite running just over three hours; the only times the scene tries to build itself is when it isn’t even necessary; the few times characters ever genuinely interact feels arbitrary and insincere and the misdirection on display of a cinematic adaptation of one of Charles Dickens’s most provoking works is some of the worst I have ever seen. I think most of the budget went into travel expenses because the number of sudden scene changes defies belief and none of them are ever given enough development or detail to feel real. I don’t like it when films based on books cut out content but if it spares us from being thrown about like a volleyball, I’ll take it!
When you’re making Dickens, there are two things you absolutely cannot be under any circumstances.
Impatient and cynical.
And that’s what this thing is. In abundance.

Now...having said that, you probably expect me to whine about what some ‘original’ did better and how things only got worse.
Well, I’m not. I can’t say that in this review. This is not one of those reviews that complains about everything modern.
I don’t have that much to feel sorry about in this review because after this 2001 train-wreck, we got the 2002 masterpiece in Nicholas Nickleby directed by Douglas McGrath starring Charlie Hunnan, Anne Hathaway, Romola Garai, Jamie Bell, Christopher Plummer, Jim Broadbent, Nathan Lane, Tom Courtenay, Timothy Spall, Juliet Stevenson, Edward Fox, David Bradley, Phil Davis, Kevin McKidd, Sophie Thompson, Alan Cumming and Barry Humphries.
It was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture- Musical or Comedy, it won the National Board of Review Award for Best Cast and Romola Garai herself was nominated for the Jameson People’s Choice Award for Best European Actress at the European Film Awards (Kate Winslet won it that year for her part in Iris which...I don’t think is fair since she’d already won that award once for Titanic. Ah well, I haven’t seen Iris so I’m not sure I can judge.)
But that was a year after this disservice to Dickens.
So I want my followers reading this to keep that in mind whenever you find a bad adaptation or remake. Sometimes it doesn’t take long before someone really does it right.
Now, I don’t for a minute believe the 2002 version was made to spite the 2001 version. Before modern social media, it’s unlikely anyone really paid much attention to which adaptation ‘ruined their childhoods’ and all that garbage.
But it is proof that, despite what some say, nothing is ever truly ‘ruined’ if you show it the love and care it needs for good things to come out it once again.
I hope that helps it whatever you think is going wrong with the films and books you love. It never takes that long for things to improve.
As a Discworld fan, I am not looking forward to The Watch at all but I’ve got The Amazing Maurice starring Hugh Laurie to look forward to instead.
And I’ve just checked Disney’s project list for Star Wars alone and I’m feeling pretty spoiled already. Bound to be something good even for the most cynical fan.
So with that, as this rather odd year draws near its close, I end this review by saying please watch 2002’s Nicholas Nickleby and give Charles Dance your love.
And so, to close this on the words of a very different Dickens character...
"God bless us, everyone."

Comments ( 2 )

I hear you. Some things are really bad thought out and made. Others may look bad but are good.

I, for example, enjoyed the movie Iron sky a lot, despite being how stupid some aspects are

Well, glad that you finished up this review of this film / miniseries. Glad to see your point about adaptations at the end; I've been chewing over doing an essay about the "ruined my childhood" B.S. and I'm always glad to see I'm not alone about feeling that it's a nonsense attitude to have.

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